Mommies Cry Over Un-spilt Milk
The magazine cover features a gorgeous, round, bare breast in full color. A hungry mouth and two loving eyes attend it with devotion. And readers are aghast.
It's last month's issue of Babytalk, whose readership is overwhelmingly brand new mothers. And yes, a quarter of the cover featured a breast in profile. The rest showed an infant in profile as well, comfortably nursing. Sorry, Janet Jackson fans, no nipple in sight.
Yet in a poll of 4,000 readers, a quarter responded negatively. Shrilly, anxiously, angrily.
"I was shocked to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine," a Kansas reader wrote. "I was offended and it made my husband very uncomfortable when I left the magazine on the coffee table," said another. "I shredded it," said Gayle Ash of Texas, "A breast is a breast -- it's a sexual thing. My 13-year-old son didn't need to see that." "Gross, I am sick of seeing a baby attached to a boob," wrote Lauren, a mother of a 4-month-old. Yes, that's right. The mother of a four-month-old.
These mammaryphobes are women. Mothers. Mothers of babies.
That's the important thing here: these complaints about a photo of a bare breast nursing a baby on a magazine read by new mothers are from women. Just as girls are divorced from their sexuality by their mothers and aunts in Arab lands, just as clitoridectomy is enforced and performed by women in Africa, American girls learn about the "inappropriateness" of sex primarily from women: from their mothers, from their Sunday School teachers, from Concerned Women For America, from Oprah.
Erotophobic women are no worse than men, of course. Pat Robertson and Sam Brownback set back healthy (female) sexuality each time they open their mouths. Many ordinary men do treat women dreadfully, even coercively, around sexuality. But let's stop saying that female alienation from eroticism is all men's fault. In America, it's the combined result of inhumane public policies, authoritarian religious indoctrination, a media narrative of sex-as-danger, and anxious fathers and mothers. Anxious mothers who, not wanting their daughters to suffer as they have, guarantee that they will.
I hear some people say that breastfeeding in public is OK, as long as it's "discreet." That's usually code for "in the bathroom," to which one ought reply, "do you like eating dinner in the bathroom?"
More on Latvian Sexuality
It seems that Latvia just can't keep out of
Last month, you read about the unfortunate homophobia they were sharing with their neighbors (issue #78), all of whom had been recently enslaved by the Soviets. Now it seems a Latvian diplomat in Minsk (now there's a plum assignment--who did this guy piss off?) has been busted by the Belarusian government for supposedly appearing in a gay porn film they seized in his apartment.
The Latvians are outraged that Belarus has violated international norms for the treatment of diplomats (in New York, you can't even give one a parking ticket). The European Union has strongly protested against Belarus' prosecution of a foreign envoy.
Amnesty International, among others, suggests that Belarus' President Lukashenko ordered the Latvian neutralized because of his interface with Belarus' democracy advocates. They recall how Lukashenko has done this before, harassing Polish diplomats who were too interested in seeing Belarus liberalized.
Meanwhile, the Minsk government actually showed explicit parts of the homosexual porn tape ("two men having illegal sexual intercourse") on its TV news coverage. It sounds exactly like what happens here: some strip club or prostitution ring gets busted, and TV stations eagerly run salacious footage, which audiences love. It's why the half-second of Janet Jackson's illicit nipple is the most downloaded video clip in internet history.
It is sadly ironic that Latvia cancels a Gay Pride parade, and weeks later is protesting that the human rights of one of its citizens are being trampled by an autocratic regime. Like Grandma used to say, two wrongs don't make a right--but it would be nice if the second wrong awakened Latvians to the first.
Caution: Hotel Rooms "Lure" Hapless Men
A dozen "we know what you shouldn't be allowed to do" groups recently spent over $100,000 for a full-page ad in USA Today--urging the FBI to investigate whether the pay-per-view adult films offered in hotel rooms are "obscene" and illegal.
This isn't completely new: in 2000 we reported (issue #6) that Omni Hotels no longer wanted to profit from adult movies, although they continue to enjoy the profits from violent movies. In 2002 we reported (issue #32) Phil Burress' success in getting 15 Ohio and Kentucky hotels to drop in-room porn. His group CCV then petitioned John Ashcroft to eliminate adult films in hotels nationwide. A year later, Donald Wildmon's American Family Association went after Brigham Young University, insisting they refuse future million-dollar donations from the Marriott family because most of their hotels give adult guests the option of paying to see adult films (issue #45).
Last week's newspaper ad is full of lies, innuendo, and threats to democracy--sort of a print version of Fox News. When Hilton and Marriott refused to be embarrassed by the ad, Burress, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins, and others continued on the offensive.
Their lies include:
- "Men are lured into viewing in the privacy of their hotel rooms, which has been responsible for sexual crimes and for the breakdown of countless marriages, families and careers."
- "Adult hardcore pornography can tragically lead to sex crimes against women and children."
- "The Department of Justice's own statistics make the connection between sexual offenders and exposure to hardcore pornography."
- "We're going to have sexual abuse cases coming out of the hotels. Hotels are [becoming] just as dangerous as environments around strip joints and porn stores."
If such scurrilous, unproven, inflammatory rant was directed toward an individual, corporation, or ethnic group, outrage and legal action would follow. You know that Burress and his gang are making the stuff up--if neighborhoods with in-room porn or strip clubs were really dangerous, they'd have data from police departments and hospitals, cramming it in our faces daily. They don't, which shows the danger doesn't exist.
Burress, Tony Perkins, and other "decency" warriors know they can't simply complain that porn is disgusting--because that isn't against the law. So they continually repeat their Big Lie: porn ruins every life it touches. This public health claim justifies their demand to make it illegal--restricted far more than tobacco, alcohol, and guns. All three have been proven harmful, yet they are still available to all non-felon adults. So even if porn were proven dangerous--which it hasn't been--the public health model doesn't make sense.
Hotels "are places that you take your family -- these are respectable institutions," objects Tony Perkins. But "families" don't rent porn films, right? He might as well say "families use the highways, and porn films and magazines are trucked on highways, so we have to eliminate porn from the highways." Is there any limit to how far they will expand this "family" shield?
Pay-per-view adult films generate hundreds of millions of dollars per year for hotels. That's not the appetite of 12 perverts, it's 50 million requests. You decide how many millions of people that is. Adult entertainment is available in 40% percent of U.S. hotel rooms (or as I'd say, "only" 40%). That means it's already unavailable in more than half of America's hotel rooms--so how much shall adult consumers be allowed--One hotel per city? One room per hotel? And only on Tuesday nights?
The Religious Right's inability to ignore porn watched in private by others looks exactly like OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), borderline personality, or some other emotional problem that needs clinical attention. They're like paranoids who insist they hear things a mile away. When people want a baby and see babies everywhere and it drives them crazy, we say those people need to deal with it--instead of agreeing that everyone else should stop having babies.
It's time for grownups to stand up and claim the right to do things others find disgusting, and even to do things that ruin their "marriages, families, and careers"--if that's what they choose. Why should Congressmembers and Hollywood stars have such choices, but not the rest of us?
Plan B: A Sort-Of Victory
The FDA has finally approved Plan B emergency contraception (EC) for over-the-counter use--for some people. President Bush and his appointees had systematically obstructed the scientific and administrative processes which normally would have led to this approval years ago.
Opponents had offered two primary objections.
Conservatives who don't understand human beings fear that increasing the availability of EC will increase "promiscuity" ("We've never had sex because we're afraid of pregnancy, but now that we can use EC, let's get it on!"). The lunatic fringe who don't believe in science call EC an abortion pill (because if a fertilized egg were magically already implanted in a woman's uterus, EC could cause it to expel).
That's America's public policy around sex today: Discussing how many fertilized eggs can dance on the head of a pin. Who can hear the voice of science when it's drowned out by the songs of sperm and egg, yearning to fulfill their destiny?
The Family Research Council (motto: "never let respect for democracy stand in the way of improving America") immediately denounced the FDA as a "rogue bureaucracy." This is the same dangerous talk that dismisses the Supreme Court as a bunch of "activist judges." Who appointed the head of the "rogue" FDA? That wild-eyed liberal George W. Bush. And who appointed 7 of our 9 "activist" Supreme Court justices? Republican presidents (Ford, Reagan, Bush, Bush Jr.).
In the 1960s, people who denounced the structure of American government were called dangerous radicals. Today they call themselves decency groups and Evangelicals.
Western democracies are stable because citizens' allegiance is to the system, not particular policies or decisions. This is exactly what's wrong with sectarian states (Iraq, Congo, Sri Lanka) and fragile semi-democracies (Mexico, Ukraine, Georgia): people riot when their candidate doesn't win, ignore laws they disagree with, intimidate officials, and the government, deprived of legitimacy, rules by force rather than by consensus.
The most amazing civic moment most of us will ever experience is the 2000 presidential election. It took forever to certify the results, millions of people felt it was stolen--and not one American rioted, not one American was wounded or killed. Half the country stood by, heartbroken, watching power transferred in a way they believed illegitimate. And yet virtually every person supported that repulsive transfer of power, and the republic went on. Those who value something above the American Constitution--"God's law," "a culture of life," the Starship Enterprise, whatever--aren't simply passionate, and by definition aren't patriotic. They are as dangerous as those survivalist militias in Idaho.
The enhanced availability of EC has been hailed as victory for women, which it is. Let's not forget that it's a victory for men, too. Every fertile man having intercourse with a fertile woman should celebrate this enhanced control over his own destiny by going to a local pharmacy and getting some EC.
Unfortunately, we can't celebrate with a full heart, because the people who need EC the most--those under 18--are still subject to apartheid in sexual health care. The science from millions of users across Europe is clear: EC availability doesn't cause otherwise chaste teens to run out and have orgies in the streets. It does help a few people prevent tragedy, and it helps encourage a social environment of people taking responsibility for their sexual behavior. And that's what the Religious Right hates. They don't want you having that responsibility. They want the responsibility for your sexual choices all to themselves.
Billboard Control Freaks Defeated
A Missouri law barring sexually oriented businesses from advertising within a mile of the state's highways has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal appeals court. The 2004 law was supposedly designed to reduce crime and improve traffic safety.
The law barred affected businesses from putting up any exterior advertising, not just billboards, within a mile of state highways, even if their content was not sexually oriented.
One of the plaintiffs was a gas station and convenience store. The store said it wanted to advertise the price of gas, ice, and cigarettes, but knew they could be prosecuted under the law because they also sell adult videos and magazines.
If this isn't discrimination, exactly what is? In writing this law, Missouri's legislature was saying, "We know we can't prevent you from operating your store here in America. But we can make it really, really hard for you to make a living." The legislature can claim it was simply doing what its constituents asked for. But Missouri's citizens do not have the right to prevent some of their neighbors from making a living just because they don't like the product these neighbors sell. And what about the consumers of this legal product--who's protecting their rights?
The state had argued that the law would improve traffic safety, limit harm to minors, reduce prostitution and crime, and prevent deterioration in property values. They were not required to prove that the banned advertising caused these problems, or that banning the advertising would prevent these problems. The state suggested that "common sense"--which Missouri seems to desperately lack--was sufficient reason to interfere in the lives of private citizens. I saw this way of doing things many times when touring the Soviet Union in 1990.
James Dobson's Tax-Exempt Political Machine
James Dobson's Focus on the Family has given $500,000 to support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Colorado. But that's just a warmup.
Dobson has announced a massive political mobilization to recruit millions of new voters for 2006 and beyond. In thousands of churches across America, he will have information inserted in church publications and booths placed outside worship services. Sounding every inch a classic political boss, Dobson emailed activists last week, seeking county coordinators who will "recruit key evangelical churches." Church coordinators will then be in charge of "encouraging pastors to speak about Christian citizenship, conducting voter-registration drives, distributing voter guides, and getting-out-the-vote."
The "separation of church and state" is no abstract philosophical issue. The Christian religion in America is exempt from paying hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes every year--in exchange for staying out of politics. If Dobson wants to create a Christian America, he should be free to pursue this nightmare--on his own dime. If he doesn't want to separate his church from my state, why should he get a tax break any more than Oprah, Ben & Jerry's, or the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, all of whom promise their own version of spiritual redemption?
The IRS is promising to look into churches that abuse their tax exemption by elbowing their way into politics. Phil Burress has already been busted by his fellow churchmen in Ohio for fraudulent campaigning. He deserves a lot more of the IRS's attention, as does Dobson.
If this occurs, and Dobson takes the IRS to court, and the case works its way up the appeals chain, do you trust Samuel Alito to be fair and impartial? Remember (issue #73), this is the Supreme Court justice who recently wrote Dobson with "my heartfelt thanks to you and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and support during the past few challenging months," promising that "as long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the trust that has been placed in me."
Next time someone claims the Christian Right is a persecuted minority, remind him or her that a Supreme Court justice says he's beholden to them. Separation of Church and State--it's not just a good idea, it's the law.
America's War on Sex--Published!
I just found out today that my new book is coming out this week--a month ahead of schedule! America's War On Sex: The Attack on Law, Lust, & Liberty is published by Praeger, with a foreword by Nadine Strossen, President of the ACLU. The word on the street is that this will be the holiday gift to give.
Seriously, I'm quite proud of the book, which details how the
government and Religious Right are using the regulation of sexual
behavior, entertainment, information, and health care to permanently
undermine secular democracy in America. If you like
For the book's table of contents, first and last chapters, lots of
"rave reviews," and an order form, click here. As an
By the way, I'm offering a 100% guarantee on the book--if you order it from me and don't love it, send it back for a full refund.
Our New-Look Website
Dahling, you simply must see our lovely new website, www.SexualIntelligence.org. It's fabulicious!
It's easier to read, the colors are gorgeous, and best of all, there's a search feature! Yes, you can google all 79 issues (and all future issues) of
You can also subscribe to our new RSS feed, which will automatically inform you when a new issue goes up. You'll especially like this when we start publishing more often (gasp!).
As on all things Sexual or Intelligent, your comments on the new design are welcome.